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How Marriott solved its record-high turnover crisis by rolling out flexible schedules and blending job roles

Courtesy of Marriott

Good morning!

Few industries have experienced as much turbulence as the hospitality sector over the last few years, and Marriott is no exception.

As the COVID-19 virus first spread globally in early 2020 and travel halted, Marriott lost 90% of its revenue nearly overnight. But when business returned as people started traveling more in 2021 and 2022, the company had a new problem on its hands: the highest turnover rate in its history.

One in four new hires quit within the first 90 days, and the share of job applications per open role, which would have garnered an average 25 applicants before the pandemic, was in the single digits.

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Something had to change, so the company began experimenting with various new employee offerings intended to help improve worker job satisfaction and retention. It rolled out options for guests like virtual tipping, flexible work schedules, and a host of reskilling and leadership development offerings for frontline workers.

“Prior to the pandemic, we would call this [high turnover] cost of wages. Post-pandemic, we call this investing in our associates. Because the difference between an investment and a cost is an investment has to return,” Ty Breland, Marriott’s CHRO, tells Fortune. “We started talking about the whole person, their physical, mental, financial well-being, and making very salient efforts to help our associates with each of those elements.”

Marriott currently nets an average 32 applications per position, and these new initiatives have proven successful in attracting more talent. For example, the company now offers more part-time roles, consistent work schedules for employees, and the option to swap or pick up extra shifts. The part-time roles have been popular for parents with school-age children who might only be available between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“Walmart, Home Depot, Target, they all have that shift. Hospitality didn't. And that's the shift where a parent puts their kids on the bus and is there to take them off the bus,” Breland says. “We didn't have that shift. So we inserted that level of flexibility.”

The company also introduced a host of skilling and development opportunities for its frontline staff in hotels. In 2023, Marriot began rolling out its “iJobs” platform, which blends different roles so workers have more variety throughout the day. For example, instead of having one employee handle guest check-in and another handling baggage, one worker handles the entire process themselves. Breland says hotels with this policy in place outperform on revenue, guest service ratings, and employee engagement scores. Marriott is rolling out the policy globally, though most U.S. hotels currently have this policy in place.

Marriott also saw great success in tapping existing employees for first-time manager roles. The company noticed that half of the entry-level managers hired were internal candidates, so it launched a leadership development program in May called “Elevate by Marriott International.” Non-management employees who are interested in taking on management duties are put through a learning and development program, paired with a manager who will sponsor them ,and also paired with an external career coach, a rare move for most non-executive roles.

The “Elevate by Marriott International” program will host 500 to 1,000 workers annually. Breland says many aspects were already in place, but not in a formal way.

“That just launched officially, but it's putting together the pieces that we've done over the last two and a half to three years to get to that 25% of our entry-level manager jobs being filled by non-management staff,” he says.

Paige McGlauflin
paige.mcglauflin@fortune.com
@paidion

Today's edition was curated by Emma Burleigh.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com